Kansas City International Airport Commission Underway

As one of the 19 local artists selected for commissions to complement the upcoming Kansas City International Airport, on track to open in March of 2023, Rachelle Gardner-Roe is full-steam ahead on her work, Flyover Country: The Wild Side. This tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the Midwest’s moniker focuses in on the rich world flora and fauna that can be found in our region. The work will consist of three 40 x 60″ textile panels consisting of thread and hand-dyed Shetland sheep blended with alpaca wool, from the family farm, Meadowtree. Once framed behind UV plexiglass, the work will span about 20 feet in one of the Southwest Airlines gates.

The response to the work-in-progress has been positive, with the project rendering make the front page of The KC Star on April 27th! If you have a KC Star subscription, check out the full article.

To continue to see more behind-the-scenes progress, follow the artist on Instgram or Facebook. To see updates of all the artworks in progress, see BuildKCI’s July Art Update.

PORTAL Closing Reception

Show image 2m_Portal_Leedy-Voulkos_Rachelle Gardner-Roe

Come see the final iteration of the textile exhibition PORTAL. It has been changing every week as more elements are added.

Closing Reception: Saturday, November 30th, 3-5PM
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore Ave., KCMO

Following closely on an exhibition of sculpture, the artist returns to the textile by utilizing the sewing machine as a drawing tool. In PORTAL, Gardner-Roe infuses her method of lace making with a notable addition. Trapped between the threads is a thin layer of hand-dyed wool from the Gardner farm. Following many hundreds of hours of sewing, the resultant riotous color celebrates both beauty and decay and creates a portal into the artist’s memories of a rural upbringing.

This melding of historical handcraft, contemporary textile practice, and Midwestern regionalism will change over time as new elements are added each week, allowing these “memory portals” to change, grow and spread.  In acknowledgement of memory’s mutability, the viewer’s memory of the work may differ from others, as it will be determined by when in time the work is experienced. As circles represent notions of wholeness across cultures, the dome forms contain a multitude of individual fragments, coming together to make a perhaps imperfect, yet complete whole.

Memory Portal No. 1_m_Rachelle Gardner-Roe
Portal No. 1 / Thread, hand-dyed wool, silk on sculpted foam / 28 x 38.5 x 6″


Show image 3m_Portal_Leedy-Voulkos_Rachelle Gardner-Roe





Exhibition Opening Party
Saturday, June 8th 5-10 PM

The Bunker Center for the Arts


Paisley Armor: Feel Like A Boss


Rachelle Gardner-Roe continues her non-traditional explorations of lace in the exhibition, A Certain Kind of Armor. Using 3D printing pens to preserve the core acts of drawing and writing, Gardner-Roe references shield and body forms that allude to systems of protection through layers of metal and patinas, yet deny a literal translation. The open lacelike network of this body of sculpture begs the question, “What is being protected?”

Can we protect the childlike exuberance with which we first picked up a crayon? What do we each use to shield ourselves from the vagaries of the world? What psychological armor do you carry with you or perhaps even physically don when you engage the outside world? What resides within you that needs protection?

A CERTAIN KIND OF ARMOR will be up through June 29th.
The Bunker Center for the Arts
is open Thurs – Sat 12 – 6 p.m.
and by appointment at 816-866-8350
1014 East 19th Street KCMO Google Map

p.s. For ongoing, in-process studio images of this work, follow me on Instagram, and view my Instagram story Behind The Armor.

Sculpture in Open Spaces Performance

In my first collaboration with a dancer / choreographer, I couldn’t be luckier to work the amazing Maura Garcia. The fact that another collaborator is a stellar musician I’ve been following for years, Amada Espinoza, is just icing on the cake. We’re all coming together for a work commissioned by Open Spaces, a nine-week city-wide arts extravaganza, headquartered in Swope Park.

I’ve made sculpture which will be part of the performance, Uncle Jimmy’s Table.  Intention, thought and form all coalesced in the creation of this sculptre. In short, all the work is literally consists of the written phrase, “Everything is connected.” First written by hand, then scanned and copied / mirrored / radiated, the final digital composition is laser-cut out of felt and fabric. The resulting lace-like text is then combined with different resins using forms to create the final sculpted branches and a vessel form. Taking direction from Maura Garcia, the colors used for the branches represent cardinal directions according to Cherokee tradition and the myriad of greens of the vessel represent a centering and new beginnings.

Detail of sculptural vessel created for Uncle Jimmy’s Table

Blurring the divide between language and form is an increasingly fruitful vein to mine in my varied work with lace. The work of Uncle Jimmy’s Table represents a new methodology for my sculpture in the coming years.

Here is poet / writer Anne Gaschet’s breakdown of the dance:

9/15 Maura Garcia Dance’s Uncle Jimmy’s Table, performance on the Village stage

Maura Garcia Dance offers performances featuring choreographic works of Artistic Director Maura Garcia (non-enrolled Cherokee/Mattamuskeet) and collaborating artists. Garcia’s new work,Uncle Jimmy’s Table, will premiere on the Open Spaces Village Stage on Sept. 15 and 16 at 2 p.m. The work expands on her longtime commitment to themes of connectedness. The practice and teaching that characterize Maura Garcia Dance focus on Indigenous traditions, ancestry and a sense of community with both the natural world and other human beings.

Uncle Jimmy’s Table, a deeply collaborative production, will also exhibit a rich connection to our local artistic community. Kansas City visual artist Rachelle Gardner-Roe has created pieces for the set that are literally made from fabric cutouts of the words, “Everything is Connected.” Gardner-Roe, who has worked extensively with incorporating text in her graphic and sculptural art, adds a material connection with writing and language to the staging of Uncle Jimmy’s Table. Andean musician Amado Espinoza will bring his renowned musical vitality to the stage with music inspired by indigenous culture and the natural elements, themes central to the artistic vision inspired by Maura Garcia Dance. With Uncle Jimmy’s Table, Garcia weaves these and numerous other local talents into a one-hour celebration of community and connectedness through time and space. This free performance will take place on the Open Spaces Village stage in Swope Park at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15 and Sunday, Sept. 16.

Musings on Femin • Is

The journey is not yet complete and new paths may still emerge, but November marks the eighth month since the Femin • Is project debuted, so it seems a good time to take a look back, even as I look forward in seeking a venue for the project for Women’s History Month in 2018.

Firstly, what am I talking about? What is Femin • Is? Well, there are two parts to that answer. Femin • Is  consists of a series of audio interviews as well as a series of portraits featuring the subjects of those interviews. I was looking for self-identifying women artists who had spent a significant part of their life in Kansas City, since around the 1960s. I wanted to hear from these women on what feminism looked like in our local arts scene from a historical perspective. Why? It’s relatively easy to find out what was going on in national hotspots during the era of radical feminism of the 1970s, but what was going on here in the Midwest? The national feminist art scene had Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro leading the way, but who did we have here?

Judy Chicago’s seminal and monumental work “The Dinner Party,” installed in what is functionally its own enclosed temple at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at The Brooklyn Museum, NY. I got the chance to experience it in 2016 and was simply left in awe of the scale and detail of the work.

Did feminism in the arts scene look different in Kansas City? And for comparison, what are some examples of feminism in the arts scene today? My initial research came up short. My response to this frustration was, “Well, if this isn’t easy to find, then make it easy to find.” The seed for Femin • Is germinated then and there.

I am a visual artist, first and foremost, so while it certainly imposed limitations on the scope of the project, it was necessary for me to tie this research to my own work. Therefore, the portrait component of the project was key. I say that this imposed a limit on the project, as there is only so many portraits I could create in a finite period, so there are many, many more women who could have easily justified inclusion. In the end, I narrowed it down to a baker’s dozen, thirteen portraits, 18 women in total.

Portraits of individuals include:
Philomene Bennett
Shea Gordon
Cyncha Jeansonne
Elisabeth Kirsch
Janet Kuemmerlein
Jennifer Lapke Pfeifer – Rightfully Sewn
Ke-Sook Lee
Linda Lighton
Paula Rose
Rosy’s Bar & Grill – Joyce Downing, Linda Kay Davis, Carol Smith, Tamara Severns
The Wild Women of Kansas City – Geneva Price, Millie Edwards Nottingham, Lori             Tucker
Gloria Vando Hickok

I asked each women I interviewed to provide me with some kind of written text that held significance in her life, either personally or historically. Poetry, historical fiction, phrases, song lyrics, philosophical treatises — all these I received and translated into portraits by writing and layering the text to create an image. I’d had a bit of practice at this from a series of self-portraits and a public project on the KC Streetcar line.

figurative portrait using layers of cursive writing. The human figure fades in and out with the writing.
Reading Between Lines │Ink on paper │ Text: Streaming consciousness │ 49.5 x 36″ │ 2014

I See You │Art in the Loop: Connect │ Power & Light KC Streetcar Stop │ 70sf │ 2016

Yet, there was more than one catalyst for this project. I had just come back from New York where I had been commissioned by the oldest feminist gallery in New York, A.I.R. Gallery, to create sculptures to be used as awards to honor feminists. I simply loved that my work was being used to honor other women. I also love podcasts and had an itch to start one of my own.

Lastly, I had a conversation with a younger women that left me flabbergasted, a ridiculous word, yet accurate, in this case. She claimed she wasn’t a feminist. I replied, “You don’t think you should have the same rights as a man?” Immediately, she responded, “Oh, of course I should,” but to her, feminism meant that oft-repeated term — man-hating.  That the definition of feminism is, literally, the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes, was simply not in her worldview, or at least, in her mind’s dictionary. Really, though, I should thank her. My exasperation led to a need to do something, in my own way, through my work.

So, I received an Inspiration Grant from The ArtsKC Regional Arts Council to record and release the interviews through a podcast I created called KC Art Pie (which will hopefully be the umbrella platform for future seasons of arts-related content).  Each of the interviews gave me clues about how to create their unique portrait.

image of brick wall with row of hung artworks
Femin • Is exhibition in the Crossroads Arts District – July 2017

exhibition of artwork with an audience looking on during an artist's talk
Artist Talk at the opening reception of Femin • Is at The Writers Place

The exhibition of portraits debuted in July at Counter Point in the Crossroads Arts District and continued in September at The Writers Place, which was quite fitting, as the work was literally literary and the co-founder of the institution, Gloria Vando Hickok, was a participant in the project.

As of this article, ten of the thirteen interviews have been released on KC Art Pie. Each of the women expressed their own kind of feminism and its been an honor to talk to each and every one of them, from the quiet feminism found in Ke-Sook Lee’s textile work, influenced by experiences of war, the life of a stay-at-home mother and the passing down of handcraft from generation to generation, to the directness of Linda Lighton’s ceramic sculpture, reflective of coming of age during the peak of the sexual revolution, yet straining under the constraints of a family’s expectations of a what a “good girl” should be.

I learned that national figures of feminism did touch our local scene. Feminist icon Miriam Schapiro juried the first all women exhibition in the region in 1977, as remembered by writer and curator Elisabeth Kirsch, who, as a student, served as the assistant to Schapiro. Honestly, there are too many stories to relate here and that is exactly what the podcast is for!

So, to close out, I’ll share some of the portraits from the Femin • Is series, along with the text that each subject chose (click on a portrait to hear the interview). This was a way to learn more about the thoughts and ideas important to them and to use those values as an expression of identity, rather than photographic likeness. We can’t always control what we look like on the outside, but we can control what we value and treasure. That is what I wanted to express in the portrayal of the identity of these amazing individuals.


Femin • Is Elisabeth Kirsch│ Ink on panel │ Text: “Awakening Loving-Kindness by Pema Chödrön │ 24 x 18” │ 2017

Femin • Is Arzie Umali │ Ink on paper │Text:Text: “Why Are There No Great Women Artists?” by Linda Nochlin │ 12 x 9” │ 2017

Femin • Is Janet Kuemmerlein │Ink on canvas │Text: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
│ 36 x 36″” │ 2017

Femin • Is Rosy’s Bar & Grill │India ink on canvas│Text (from left to right):
Joyce Downing: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
Carol King: “Ella’s Song”, composed by Bernice Johnson Reagon
Linda Kay Davis: “No More Slavery”, composed by Ed Sanders of The Fugs
Tamara Severns: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Background Text: “Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim

artwork of silhouette of seated figure
Femin • Is Cyncha Jeansonne │ Ink on paper │Text: One Thousand White Women: the Journals of May Dodd (fiction)│ 17 x 12.75” │ 2017

Femin • Is Paula Rose │Ink on panel │Text: “If I Were a Man” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman │ 16 x 20” │ 2017

 Femin • Is The Wild Women of Kansas City │Ink on paper │Text: (from left to right)
Millie Edwards Nottingham: “We Shall Overcome”
Geneva Price: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” – Quote by Maya Angelou
Lori Tucker: “With God, all things are possible.”
Radiating Text: Excerpts from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
│ 22.75 x 34.75”” │ 2017

Femin • Is Gloria Vando Hickok │India ink on paper │Text: The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser │ 22.75 x 34.75” │ 2017

NO. 10 FEMIN • IS – Philomene Bennett

side profile of a seated woman with an abstract painting of swirling lines in the background

In episode No. 10 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with painter Philomene Bennett to hear about her fifty plus year career as an artist. Having read Bennett described as the “grand dame” of art in Kansas City, I was eager to learn more.

In episode No. 10 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with painter Philomene Bennett to hear about her fifty plus year career as an artist. Having read Bennett described as the “grand dame” of art in Kansas City, I was eager to learn more.

Now in her eighties, Bennett’s lasting influence on individual artists through her long-running studio ateliers and the very fabric of the Kansas City arts scene through the co-founding of The Kansas City Artists Coalition is simply undeniable.

In our conversation, we touched on everything from how her identity as an artist started in childhood, her first big break in Kansas City, a fateful night that started an arts organization now 40 years strong, and, of course, her own work as a painter, including a few works close to her heart. Below are images of the work we discussed, as well as some extra treats. Enjoy!

painting of a female figure reclining on a divan clothed in and surrounded by rich draping fabrics


abstract painting with swirling, expressive lines hinting at a landscape with sky and a fish pond towards the bottom
Philomene Bennett, My Very Own Fish Pond, oil on canvas


image of a woman standing and painting a large portrait on canvas
Bennett painting in her River Quay (River Market) studio in the 1970s


image of an art opening with people and a large painting filling the background
Bennett (seen left) at an opening of her work featuring a monumental painting on canvas

image of landscape-like abstract painting
Philomene Bennett, The Shadow Persists, oil on canvas

Lastly, here is Philomene’s portrait. It used metallic gold acrylic, so it was admittedly very difficult to photograph.  Text: Alice Neel, volume published for exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art

It was a lot of writing, but I enjoyed learning more about the challenging life of Alice Neel. I can completely see how Philomene found her inspiring!


This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from
artskc-logo-1000x450 (2) (1)

NO. 9 FEMIN • IS – Women in Glasses

cover art for the podcast episode: image of a nude model with glasses looking over the head of a man in a business suit.

In episode No. 9 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with Cyncha Jeansonne who created the controversial 1976 exhibition Women in Glasses at the Douglas Drake Gallery. We talked about the rebellion required to be an artist and how this two-day installation of 15 nude women came to be.

Featured Image is a detail from photographer Donald White’s series of photographs of the exhibition.
**CAUTION** Images below include nudity. Discretion is advised.

The debate on what qualifies as objectification of women’s bodies versus body positivity and agency certainly isn’t new even if some of the buzzwords are.  While the conversation on the censure of women’s bodies continue today, the 1970s era of radical feminism certainly sparked some debates. Louisiana native and artist Cyncha Jeansonne played a part here in Kansas City with her two-day environmental installation at the Douglas Drake Gallery in 1976. While she tamps down on the idea of a feminist influence at the time, she asserts that the work was an act of rebellion, so it’s almost impossible to see the installation without the historical lens of feminism.

For another view on this installation, read  “Women in Glasses” – A Reminiscence by Doug Drake

I could only get my hands on some lovely black and white prints of the exhibition, but you can see a color detail in the article above.

Detail view of Women in Glasses art exhibition showing a viewer looking past nude pregnant model and another posing model in the background.

View of audience member of Women in Glasses art exhibition looking directly into the eyes of nude model while another models poses in the background.

Detail of Women in Glasses art exhibition: showing woman in glasses overlooking a man dressed in a business suit.

Installation view of 1976 show Women in Glasses showing artist Cyncha Jeansonne (then known as Cyndi Ketchum) with nude models on pedestals with eye glasses.

Installation view of 1976 show Women in Glasses: audience meandering around nude women on pedestals with eye glasses.

Installation view of 1976 show Women in Glasses: audience meandering around nude women on pedestals with eye glasses.

View of 1976 installation: all white walls and floor with white pedestals.


Finally, here is Cyncha’s collaborative portrait, appropriately colored in shades of pink.

Femin Is_Cyncha Jeansonne Text: One Thousand White Women: the Journals of May Dodd (fiction)

This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant fromartskc-logo-1000x450 (2) (1)

NO. 8 FEMIN • IS – Arzie Umali

Femin Is_Arzie Umali_Cover Art

In episode No. 8 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with painter and Assistant Director of UMKC’s Womens Center, Arzie Umali. We talked about her research into representation of women artists in KC institutions, her work at The Women’s Center, and her work as a painter.

Featured Image is of Arzie Umali’s portrait for the Femin • Is project, consisting of text from Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?

From her days as a graduate student to now, Arzie Umali has kept feminism and the art world closely entwined. With a precedent set by the famed Guerrilla Girls in making tallies of the number of women artists receiving exhibitions in New York museums, Umali looked at institutions closer to home to look at representation of women artists.

guerrilla girl museum statistics 1985 vs 2015

I wanted to look at this history and talk about how the research was done, as well as put out a call that this work needs to be done again.

Additionally, we talked about Her Art Project, a program initiative Umali started at The Women’s Center at the University of Missouri Kansas City. As we talked about its past, present, and some exciting plans for the future, it’s clear that Her Art Project is close to Umali’s heart.



Diving into her own work as a painter, we learn of a lasting influence from another female artist on her choice of subject matter. You can view more of her work on her website at www.arzie.com.

No More Evil, Please by Arzie Umali


Madonna on the Rocks by Arzie Umali

Lastly, we find that even her personal work has taken on a role of reaching out to others as evidenced by our conversation about a project that started out as a two-woman show but morphed into a community exhibition. Arzie Umali and her advocacy for women and the arts is here to stay.

Lastly, here is Arzie’s full portrait!

Ink on paper │Text: “Why Are There No Great Women Artists?” by Linda Nochlin │ 12 x 9” │ 2017

This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

artskc-logo-1000x450 (2) (1)


In episode No. 7 of the Femin • Is series, I sat down with three powerhouse jazz vocalists and wild women to talk about jazz, feminism, race and history. This is a rich and meaty slice of pie. 

I couldn’t put it any better, so I’ll let the Wild Women speak for themselves.

The Wild Women of Kansas City, organized in 1999, show the importance of respect for diversity and the need to embrace diversity. Four different women with four different gifts, different styles, one common heritage yet four different cultural experiences become one spirit, one voice, one heart.

Together, the current roster of vocalists, Geneva Price, Millie Edwards Nottingham and Lori Tucker, use their many gifts to share their passion for jazz, but of course, no conversation of the Wild Women is complete without mentioning one of the founding members, Myra Taylor, who passed in 2011. To here more from Myra herself, and more music clips from the Wild Women, here’s a great KCUR interview from 2007.

In this episode, another of the original members, Geneva Price, shared some poetry that stems from the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a key inspiration behind the name of the jazz group. Geneva also mentioned her work with interviewing local musicians for The American Jazz Museum for their archives. While not online, those stories can be accessed as part of their wide-ranging collection.

I would also like to thank KC music guru, Chuck Haddix, for introducing me to the Wild Women. It was a pleasure and honor.

Lastly, here is the portrait of the current Wild Women; a lot of different texts in this one!

Ink on paper │Text: (from left to right)
Millie Edwards Nottingham: “We Shall Overcome”
Geneva Price: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” – Quote by Maya Angelou
Lori Tucker: “With God, all things are possible.”
Radiating Text: Excerpts from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
│ 22.75 x 34.75”” │ 2017


This episode of KC Art Pie is made possible through an Inspiration Grant from

artskc-logo-1000x450 (2) (1)

Femin • Is Exhibition Opening

Facebook Event

Opening on July First Friday at Counter Point in the Crossroads Arts District, this exhibition presents the visual component of Rachelle Gardner-Roe’s year-long Femin • Is project. This salon-style series of portraits is derived from a series of interviews that Gardner-Roe continues to publish on the KC Art Pie podcast (www.kcartpie.com) of creative self-identifying women. Each participant collaborated to create their portrait by selecting a text of personal or historical significance. Through writing, Gardner-Roe used the submitted poetry, essays, mantras, and more to create imagery reflecting portraiture conceived not of photographic likeness, but rather, an expression of identity through values and ideas.

This process allowed the Gardner-Roe to further learn, beyond the direct interviews, what inspired and influenced the women who came before her as well as those working alongside her. The goal is to present a body of work that dives beyond the superficial and aspires to this: May we be defined by that which we hold dear and hold to be true.

Portraits of individuals include:
Shea Gordon Festof
Elisabeth Kirsch
Janet Kuemmerlein
Jennifer Lapke Pfeifer – Rightfully Sewn
Linda Lighton
Paula Rose
Rosy’s Bar & Grill – Joyce Downing, Linda Kay Davis, Carol Smith, Tamara Severns
The Wild Women of Kansas City – Geneva Price, Millie Edwards Nottingham, Lori Tucker
Gloria Vando Hickok

This project is supported by an Inspiration Grant from ArtsKC.

Friday July 7th, 6-9pm
Counter Point
1903 Wyandotte St.
Kansas City, MO 64108